Cancer Rehab: A Growing Demand

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More than 14 percent of cancer survivors were first diagnosed more than 20 years ago? That’s why survivors’ visibility is growing, said Julia H. Rowland, PhD, Director of the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Survivorship, along with public demand for rehabilitation programs akin to cardiac patient programs.

“We can’t just ‘treat and street’ anymore,” she said.

Helping people learn what they can do to help themselves stay well with diet, nutrition and physical activity is key to helping them manage cancer and succeed at survivorship. “We need to inform survivors and their families of of cancer prevention strategies because behaviors occur in the context of families,” she added. Leveraging the support of other cancer survivors holds much potential for cancer rehab programs in the future–combined with health care professionals, the insurance industry and government as a prevention and cost-saving measure. Studies are beginning to look at people living longer with cancer and additional health problems that develop with aging.

Registered Dietitian Diana Dyer — a nationally recognized 2-time breast cancer survivor whose endowment benefits AICR — said to “Separate hope from hype or harm” — advice to cancer patients who are overwhelmed by the tidal wave of information when first diagnosed. “Plant foods are powerful,” she said. Making nutrition guidance for survivors a priority is being boosted by a new oncology certification for dietitians offered by the American Dietetic Association.

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    Phytochemicals: The Big Picture

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    It’s the end of the afternoon session and Dr. Young-Joon Surh from South Korea is giving an overview of the health benefits of phytochemicals when it comes to cancer prevention. He talks about the work they have done on the health benefits of resveratrol, which has shown anti-cancer properties. Name a fruit or vegetable (or spice) and it likely contains a phytochemical studied for cancer prevention – or other health benefits. 36_Pike_Place_Market_very_long_display_of_fruits_and_vegetables

    There’s many, many studies revealing how these phytochemicals act in the body: A lot of it seems to relate to reducing chronic inflammation. Hopefully soon, says Dr. Surh, we will know enough to identify what foods will help different groups of people at high-risk for cancer.

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      Should Cancer Survivors Exercise?

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      Is it important for cancer survivors to exercise?  Dr. Melinda Irwin summarized observational studies which all showed a decreased risk of cancer recurrence with physical activity.  The good news is that all levels of exercise showed benefit.  Those who met the U.S. physical activity guidelines showed greatest benefits.  So – grab your sneakers and take a walk!

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